This review is, of course, over a year late – seeing as the Watchmen craze well and truly died after Zac Snyder’s rather juvenile attempt at a film version last year. (Or was it the year before that?)
This DVD is rather an interesting project – it’s the original Watchmen graphic novel (minus the articles and short stories and other text-based features that you would read at the end of each of the 12 issues if you bought the book) animated frame by frame. So effectively you can watch the complete book as it was drawn. The back of the DVD warns you that the book is brought to life with “limited motion, voice and sound”. So it’s by no means an animated feature film. Instead, it’s each frame of the comic, moving as much as possible. And despite the word “limited”, there’s actually quite a lot of motion in this motion comic.
Curtains rustle in the breeze, papers blow along the street, characters walk. Some of the transitions from frame to frame (such as the zoom in and zoom out effects that Gibbons and Moore were trying to create in the original) are all preserved and, in fact, enhanced. Even speech bubbles and captions appear on screen (although they are narrated out loud), so nothing has been cut from the visuals here.
I quite enjoyed this, as a way of reliving the comic (which I’d already read). My main quibble is with the narration. Believe it or not, the whole book – every character – is voiced by one Tom Stechschulte. Don’t get me wrong – he does a great job – and every character has a unique and different voice characterisation and if you didn’t know it was one guy, you might be tempted to think it was several. But it’s quite jarring when the female characters suddenly start speaking in a male voice, and I really wish they could have got a female actress in to do the voice parts for them. Would that have been too much trouble or cost?
Other than that, whether you’ll like it or not is a different matter. If you’re a Watchmen fan already, presumably you have the books and you’ve seen the film – do you really want to see the book acted out blow by blow? Probably, like I did, you would buy this if you were curious to get a glimpse of what Watchmen would have looked like had the film been more faithful to the source material. Certainly, it’s less Neanderthal than Snyder’s dressed-up excuse for lots of gut-wrenching slo-mo violence. But, at the same time, watching a comic book unfold like this also makes you realise that there are differences between books and film. And so sometimes the pacing of the thing is quite slow. (Which is to be expected, given that it takes 12 half-hour episodes for the whole thing to unfold.)
All in all, though, I would keep this one as an interesting film of Watchmen, much more so than Snyder’s film, which on the second viewing became even more flawed. I haven’t yet seen his “Ultimate Cut”, which might fix things up a bit, but I’m not so convinced his film can be saved.
4 out of 5.